Peter Overby

As NPR's correspondent covering campaign finance and lobbying, Peter Overby totes around a business card that reads Power, Money & Influence Correspondent. Some of his lobbyist sources call it the best job title in Washington.

Overby was awarded an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia silver baton for his coverage of the 2000 campaign and the 2001 Senate vote to tighten the rules on campaign finance. The citation said his reporting "set the bar" for the beat.

In 2008, he teamed up with the Center for Investigative Reporting on the Secret Money Project, an extended multimedia investigation of outside-money groups in federal elections.

Joining with NPR congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook in 2009, Overby helped to produce Dollar Politics, a multimedia examination of the ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, as Congress considered the health-care overhaul bill. The series went on to win the annual award for excellence in Washington-based reporting given by the Radio and Television Correspondents Association.

Because life is about more than politics, even in Washington, Overby has veered off his beat long enough to do a few other stories, including an appreciation of R&B star Jackie Wilson and a look back at an 1887 shooting in the Capitol, when an angry journalist fatally wounded a congressman-turned-lobbyist.

Before coming to NPR in 1994, Overby was senior editor at Common Cause Magazine, where he shared a 1992 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for magazine writing. His work has appeared in publications ranging from the Congressional Quarterly Guide to Congress and Los Angeles Times to the Utne Reader and Reader's Digest (including the large-print edition).

Overby is a Washington-area native and lives in Northern Virginia with his family.

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4:39am

Tue October 28, 2014
Politics

Money Mixes Up Missouri Circuit-Court Race

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 1:17 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now another story of big, political money coming to small-town America. In Cole County, Missouri, a circuit court judge is fighting to stay on the bench. Her challenger was underfunded until he got some outside help. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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4:23am

Mon October 20, 2014
Politics

This Political Ad Was Paid For By — Oh, Never Mind

Originally published on Wed October 22, 2014 6:42 pm

Among outside groups — that is, not candidates or party committees — more than half of this cycle's political ads are financed by secret donors.
iStockphoto

When you talk about "outside" money in politics, there's a good chance you'll talk about billionaire activists David and Charles Koch.

Especially if you're Harry Reid. The Senate majority leader regularly takes to the Senate floor to slam the Kochs for financing a network of conservative groups. Back in March, he said he was criticizing "two very wealthy brothers who intend to buy their own Congress, a Congress beholden to their money and bound to enact their radical philosophy."

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4:24pm

Thu September 18, 2014
It's All Politics

Billionaire GOP Donor Finally Opens Checkbook For 2014

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 7:20 pm

Republican Party leaders are urging big donors to start writing checks, and the check-writers now include Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

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6:47pm

Mon September 15, 2014
It's All Politics

Tommy Boggs, Influential Lobbyist, Dies At 73

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 1:44 pm

Brian K. Diggs AP

Tommy Boggs, a longtime lobbyist who in many ways epitomized the Washington establishment, has died. His sister, Morning Edition commentator Cokie Roberts, said he apparently had a heart attack.

Thomas Hale Boggs Jr., 73, pioneered a new, more professional way of lobbying starting in the 1960s, when he saw how power in Washington was becoming more diffuse. Clout on Capitol Hill spread from the House and Senate leadership to more junior members, especially in reforms after the Watergate scandal. In the executive branch, the number of regulatory agencies increased.

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3:15am

Mon September 1, 2014
It's All Politics

A Political Family, Funding And Running On Both Sides Of The Aisle

Originally published on Tue September 2, 2014 11:02 am

The Ricketts family poses on the Chicago Cubs field in 2010, a year after they bought the team: Laura Ricketts (from left), Joe Ricketts, Marlene Ricketts, Todd Ricketts, Tom Ricketts and Pete Ricketts.
Nam Y. Huh AP

Rich families sustain American politics. Some produce candidates; others supply money. And in rare instances, a family will do both.

Meet Nebraska billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder of Ending Spending, an independent political organization that's among the top 10 spenders this election cycle. Three of his four children are politically active, including one who's running for governor.

A Billionaire With Political Punch

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7:04pm

Wed August 27, 2014
It's All Politics

Former Iowa Lawmaker Admits To Getting Payoff Before 2012 Caucuses

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 9:24 pm

Kent Sorenson says he was paid for his endorsement of Ron Paul in the 2012 presidential campaign — and that the exchange was hidden from the public.
Charles Dharapak AP

A former Iowa state senator says he concealed money he took for shifting loyalty from Rep. Michele Bachmann to then-Rep. Ron Paul during the 2012 presidential campaign.

There's always a certain amount of weirdness in the Iowa presidential caucuses, and in the 2012 cycle the peak weirdness might have come just before New Year's. Republican state Sen. Kent Sorenson, the Iowa chairman for Bachmann's campaign, jumped to the Paul campaign six days before the voting — immediately setting off rumors that he had taken a payoff for switching sides.

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12:57pm

Wed August 13, 2014
It's All Politics

More Details Surface On Missing IRS Hard Drive

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 2:41 pm

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., holds up a hard drive as he questions IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during a July 23 hearing.
Uncredited AP

Finally, we now have a detailed IRS account of its attempts to resurrect the long-gone hard drive in Lois Lerner's computer.

But it's not definitive.

Lerner headed the tax-exempt organizations division in 2011, when it was dealing with hundreds of applications from conservative groups. They wanted status as 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, so they could raise unlimited sums without identifying the donors and engage in extensive political activity.

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4:15pm

Thu July 31, 2014
Politics

Facing A Mass-Mailing Deadline, Lawmakers Get Frank Fast

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 8:07 pm

Members of Congress are racing to take advantage of "franking" privileges, which allow them to replace postage with their signature. They are not allowed to use franking within 90 days of an election.
iStockphoto

Members of Congress face a deadline next Thursday — 90 days before the election — to put constituent newsletters in the mail. Carefully timing the mailings is just one fillip in the fine art of congressional communications, especially those that might suggest campaign messages.

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7:05pm

Wed July 23, 2014
It's All Politics

Democrats Make New Bid To Require Donor Transparency

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition reception in Washington in June. On Wednesday, he appeared at a Senate rules committee hearing to oppose a campaign finance bill proposed by Democrats.
Yuri Gripas Reuters/Landov

Senate Democrats have rolled out this year's model of the DISCLOSE Act. Or, if you want to be more formal: the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act.

It's the third version of DISCLOSE since 2010. Broadly speaking, it would force donor disclosure on the big-money, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations that are flourishing in post-Citizens United politics. Unlike almost all other players in an election campaign, 501(c)(4)s are not covered by the disclosure laws. Their donors are never publicly named.

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4:45am

Wed July 23, 2014
Politics

Long GOP Primary Season Gives Democrats Time To Fill Campaign Coffers

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 11:31 am

Senate candidate Michelle Nunn of Georgia is one of several Democratic women making strong election bids.
Akili-Casundria Ramsess AP

Georgia Republicans picked their Senate nominee Tuesday night. Former corporate CEO David Perdue will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in the November general election.

Nunn, the daughter of a popular former senator, is among several Democratic female candidates who are showing strength as the party tries to preserve its Senate majority. She's also considered a real contender to turn the Georgia seat Democratic.

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7:20pm

Wed July 9, 2014
It's All Politics

Interpreting The IRS Emails, Washington-Style

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 7:25 pm

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., grills Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen as he testifies June 23 before the House Oversight Committee.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Here's the biggest recurring theme in the IRS controversy — the one about alleged targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Throughout the yearlong investigation, congressional Republicans and Democrats have not only highlighted their own evidence but also taken the same evidence and drawn diametrically opposed conclusions.

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4:43pm

Fri June 20, 2014
Politics

IRS Chief Tangles With Lawmakers Over Missing Emails

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:08 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. On Capitol Hill today, the House Ways & Means Committee drilled down on one question - what happened to Lois Lerner's e-mails? Lerner is the former official who was at the center of an IRS controversy last year. She oversaw agents who investigated advocacy groups and delayed the applications for tax except status. Conservatives say their groups were unfairly targeted. NPR's Peter Overby was at today's hearing, and he filed this report.

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12:40pm

Tue June 17, 2014
It's All Politics

Lost IRS Emails Spark Republican Ire

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 2:00 pm

Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner speaks March 5 on Capitol Hill during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the the agency's targeting of Tea Party groups.
Lauren Victoria Burke AP

With new technology came a new type of Washington scandal: missing emails.

In the latest instance, the vanished emails belonged to Lois Lerner, former head of the exempt organizations division at IRS. She's the official who oversaw the scrutiny of applicants for tax-exempt status as 501(c)(4) social welfare groups — a process that conservatives allege was meant to block Tea Party groups.

The controversy blew up just over a year ago. Lerner was pushed out of the IRS; the House cited her for contempt of Congress.

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3:55pm

Fri June 13, 2014
It's All Politics

Tract Issued By Theologians Takes On Money In Politics

Religious voices have entered the campaign finance debate, with a tract titled "Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy."
jswinborne iStockphoto

In a newly issued report, a group of 11 theologians goes where the pols and lawyers dare not tread, with a faith-based analysis of money's role in politics. In "Lo$ing Faith In Our Democracy," published by Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, you can guess where it comes down on the big questions.

The tract asserts that the current political money system — with superPACs, secretive social welfare organizations and unlimited contributions — "does not take into account the needs of the poor."

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7:02pm

Thu June 12, 2014
It's All Politics

The Big Numbers Behind Eric Cantor's Failed Primary Bid

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 8:05 pm

Following his defeat in the Virginia GOP primary Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor tells reporters he intends to resign his leadership post at the end of July.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

The big numbers are in from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary loss to Tea Party candidate David Brat.

First of all, the vote totals: 36,120 votes for Brat; 28,902 for Cantor.

Cash raised: Between the start of 2013 and May 21, 2014, Cantor raised $4.7 million. Brat raised a bit less than $207,000.

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5:25am

Wed June 11, 2014
The Salt

Lobbyists Loom Behind The Scenes Of School Nutrition Fight

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 6:01 pm

Patrick McCoy (right) and Harry Fowler of Schwan's Food Service show off their company's Big Daddy's pizza at the School Nutrition Association's national conference in Chicago in 2007.
Brian Kersey AP

The School Nutrition Association — what you might call the national organization for lunch ladies (and gents) — says it was trying to improve the healthfulness of school lunches.

But it says the U.S. Agriculture Department didn't help when things got tough, so it went to Congress. House Republicans provided help, but they also put the group in the middle of a partisan battle over what to feed America's school students.

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5:08am

Fri June 6, 2014
Politics

Outside Groups To Spend Even More Ahead Of Miss. GOP Senate Runoff

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 11:09 am

Well-heeled outside groups easily outspent Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel before the GOP Senate primary in Mississippi. They're going all in on the runoff election later this month.

5:23pm

Thu May 22, 2014
It's All Politics

Billionaire Environmentalist Targets 7 Statewide Races

Originally published on Thu May 22, 2014 7:59 pm

Businessman Tom Steyer listens during a meeting to announce the launch of a group called Virginians for Clean Government in September 2013.
Steve Helber AP

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer has already pledged at least $50 million to his superPAC, NextGen Climate, and now the superPAC's leaders are laying out a hardball strategy for the fall campaign.

The goal: tag seven Republican candidates as "science deniers" who are on the wrong side of the increasingly urgent climate change issue.

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5:57pm

Tue May 20, 2014
It's All Politics

Obamacare Buried By Avalanche Of Negative Ads, Study Finds

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 7:04 pm

A frame grab image from video provided by Americans for Prosperity shows a political ad against Rep. Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., stating the Affordable Care Act is not working.
AP

It's been obvious ever since 2010 that Republicans and conservatives were spending a lot more slamming the Affordable Care Act than the Obama administration and Democrats were spending to defend it.

But 15 to 1?

Yes. That's the ratio calculated by Kantar Media's campaign media analysis group — CMAG to political junkies. Kantar estimates that national advertising against the ACA cost $418 million, compared with $27 million for ads supporting the law. Kantar calls the anti-ACA spending "unprecedented [and] largely unanswered."

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5:07pm

Mon May 19, 2014
Politics

Tea Party Stumbles As GOP Establishment Flexes Fundraising Strength

Originally published on Mon May 19, 2014 8:54 pm

Tea Party candidates did well in GOP primary elections in 2010 and 2012; this year, not so much. Part of this lack of success is because establishment candidates have generally out-raised them, and establishment-aligned outside groups are no longer reluctant to get involved in primaries.

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4:00pm

Wed April 30, 2014
Politics

Against 'Dark Money,' A Star Witness Speaks In Congress

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 6:18 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testified in a Senate hearing today on the surge of secret money in politics. Stevens retired from the court a few months after the Citizens United ruling in 2010. He had issued an emphatic dissent in the case, which allowed corporations and unions to spend without limits in campaigns.

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5:34pm

Fri April 25, 2014
Politics

Pay-To-Play Laws Celebrate 20th Anniversary

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 7:15 pm

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during an April 17 news conference in New York.
John Minchillo AP

While the Supreme Court this month took another step in freeing up big political donors, another set of federal restrictions on political money is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The so-called pay-to-play rules — enforced by the Securities and Exchange Commission — are a narrow but powerful way to control political cash.

Think "pay to play" and you might think of video games or high school sports. But in politics, "pay to play" refers to something totally different — a particular kind of political corruption.

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2:26pm

Tue April 15, 2014
It's All Politics

Gingrich 2012 Campaign Still Owes $4.7 Million

Originally published on Tue April 15, 2014 3:13 pm

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich waves after addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting in National Harbor, Md., on March 8.
Cliff Owen AP

Newt 2012, the presidential campaign vehicle for Newt Gingrich last time around, couldn't bag the Republican nomination for him.

And now, the former House speaker's committee still owes $4.7 million from the attempt.

The campaign tells the Federal Election Commission that its debt on April 1, 2014, was just $14,507 less than the amount owed on May 31, 2012 — the month Gingrich officially suspended his White House bid.

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4:08pm

Wed April 9, 2014
Politics

Pursuing IRS Controversy, House GOP Pivots Toward Crossroads

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 6:48 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have voted to seek the criminal prosecution of former IRS official Lois Lerner. They allege that she violated several laws as the tax agency grappled with conservative groups seeking tax exempt status. The vote also marked a sharp turn in Republican strategy in the year-long controversy.

NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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7:59am

Sat March 29, 2014
Politics

Activists Push Public Financing Of N.Y. Political Campaigns

Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 11:27 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The U.S. Supreme Court could deliver a new ruling as early as next week that could undo existing limits on regulating political money. But on the other hand, a coalition of liberal groups has started pushing for the public finance of elections. They essentially want to give money to candidates so they don't have to chase big donors. And the current fight is going on in New York's state capitol, Albany. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

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3:15am

Wed March 26, 2014
Politics

Say Goodbye To The Taxpayer-Funded Political Convention

Ever since the Watergate era, taxpayers have been able to check a box on their federal tax returns and designate a little bit of their tax payment to help finance the presidential campaigns and wean politicians away from big donors.

The public financing program has had its ups and downs. But now President Obama is prepared to sign legislation that, for the first time, takes taxpayer money out of the fund.

First of all, let's pause to reflect on some of the great moments of American political conventions brought to you by presidential matching funds.

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5:08am

Wed March 19, 2014
Politics

Is Organizing For Action Too Close To The White House?

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 10:28 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Next we're going to unravel another potential political scandal. It involves a tax-exempt advocacy group with ties to President Obama. Organizing for Action is saying it broke its own rules against hooking up big donors with White House officials. Critics are unimpressed. NPR's Peter Overby breaks it down for us.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, OFA. Hey.

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1:18pm

Thu March 13, 2014
It's All Politics

What's Holding Up Ukraine Aid Bill In Congress? Anger Over IRS

Originally published on Thu March 13, 2014 1:38 pm

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. (from left), Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Ben Cardin, D-Md., met on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
Mike Theiler UPI /Landov

With members of the House and Senate scrapping over a Ukraine aid bill, Republicans say a magic bullet could break the logjam.

It has nothing to do with the former Soviet republic, its ability to withstand Russia's military intervention in Crimea, or this weekend's referendum in the Ukrainian territory.

It has everything to do with conservatives' fury at the IRS, which they say has waged a partisan, and unconstitutional, war against President Obama's opponents.

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4:00pm

Tue March 11, 2014
Politics

Outside Groups Lay Millions On Florida Special Election

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 6:51 pm

Republican David Jolly thanks supporters during a campaign rally in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.
Steve Nesius AP

The campaign for a congressional seat in St. Petersburg, Fla., will have seen some $10 million in spending by candidates and outside groups. Where did all of this money go?

4:12pm

Tue February 18, 2014
Law

Once Neglected, Secretaries Of State Step Into The Spotlight

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 7:58 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Control of Congress won't be the only big question in this fall's elections. A quieter but critical battle is being waged over state-level races for secretary of state. In most states, that's the official in charge of running elections. Elections have become a political lightning rod. Many conservatives rail against voter fraud and lax rules, liberals say that's voter suppression. And now, as NPR's Peter Overby reports, superPACs want to nationalize the fight over secretary of state.

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